Beckett on Flaubert, Balzac and others

An excerpt (I guess) from Brigitte Le Juez’ Beckett Before Beckett: Samuel Beckett’s Lectures on French Literature at the Guardian (via Maud):

Beckett favoured the absence of a controlling authorial personality and any sense of finality in a text, and was opposed to the control, embellishment or glorification of reality. In these respects, Flaubert was an exemplary modern author for him. Citing Madame Bovary and Salammbô he explained that Flaubert was neither photographer nor image monger, but a writer who displayed an honest apprehension of reality.

Beckett denied any modernity in Balzac, whose flawed duality he denounced – on the one hand he was a realist, and on the other a romantic psychologist. But, for Beckett, these two aspects did not fit together, resulting in a profound lack of cohesion in Balzac’s work. According to Beckett a modern writer must seek “homogeneity”. Thus, Flaubert was at once coherent and complex, in the manner in which the extreme precision of his texts revealed the contradiction of so-called 19th-century realism: exactitude was inevitably bound to be frustrated because confusion cannot be reduced to a neat narrative à la Balzac.

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